Sonoma’s Elaine Chukan Brown doodles and blogs at Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews.
Sonoma's Elaine Chukan Brown doodles and blogs at Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. (Chris Pittenger)

In less than two years, former philosophy professor Elaine Chukan Brown has made a big impression in the wine world. It's not just her thoughtful, in-depth interviews with winemakers from Lodi to Friuli that have earned the Sonoma mom a recent nomination for Saveur's Best Wine Blog for Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews (wakawakawinereviews.com). It's her wine tasting comics: Whimsical, low-fi doodles of fruits and flowers alongside phrases like "red rose and BBQ crackle edges."

In an era of airbrushed images, Brown's drawings have an intimacy most of us haven't felt since we passed notes in grade school. Berkeley wine importer Kermit Lynch calls them "a new standard for wine reviews." Brown's wine-related art pieces hang in the wine room of Villandry in London, and she was recently tapped to write the social media entry for the new edition of "The Oxford Companion to Wine."

How wine is like philosophy: "In academia I would have to take high levels of information and make it accessible but still complex. That's something I love about wine. The endless pursuit. The downside is that you could wander forever. The upside is that because it's endless in every direction, you get to choose which path you want to take."

First encounter: "In my 20s, I got a bottle of Chianti for my birthday. It was the moment I realized I could really like a wine. A few years later, my sister took me to dinner and ordered a Burgundy. That was the moment I realized what wine could be. Later, I had a 2007 pinot meunier made by David Lett (Oregon's Willamette Valley). It was earthy, almost musty, with metallic zing. Learning about his legacy -- that's when it became a passionate study."

Latest discovery: "Graham Tatomer is making beautiful gruner veltliner and riesling in Santa Barbara County and Edna Valley. I'm purposefully spending a lot of time down there. It's really unique viticulturally, and the range of possibility there is amazing."

Tuesday night pairing: "Good quality Chinese or Thai takeout are great pairings for riesling or gruner veltliner. So is fish. I'm from Alaska and come from a family of commercial fishermen, so I have an eminent supply of halibut and crab in my freezer."

-- J. Yadegaran, Staff